Why Only Risk Takers Find Real Fulfillment

Why Only Risk Takers Find Real Fulfillment

The defiant image of “Tank Man” is one of the most enduring photographs ever taken.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, right as communism began to fall in Central and Eastern Europe, protests and revolutions for democracy were taking place all around the world.

Perhaps the most famous during this period were those being led by students in Beijing, China. In the first half of 1989, there were times when up to a million people would gather in Tiananmen Square to object the direction being taken by their country.

Towards the middle of that year, however, things had started to heat up. The government was losing its patience. On June 4, they decided to suppress the action using military force.

To this day, nobody knows the full story of what went down the next morning, but almost everybody alive at the time has at least some memory of it being a day of significance.

On June 5, as a row of military tanks were parading the streets to keep the protests from continuing, an unknown man in a white shirt stepped out in front of them. As they stopped, he stayed put. As they tried to move past him, he moved with them.

Different accounts tell different stories, but the most common one states that he was soon pulled back into the crowd and hasn’t been seen since. All that is left is the photograph.

Today, that man risking his life for his beliefs is an iconic symbol of rebellion and courage.

The Substitution of Physical Risk

There was a time in history when finding purpose was as easy as eating and sleeping.

For tens of thousands of years, in fact, there was no purpose other than survival. We lived in a dangerous environment, and the only way to endure this harshness was to work for it.

While it’s hard to make any definitive comments on past civilizations, especially those older than thousands of years, it isn’t a stretch to assume that the average person in a hunter and gatherer tribe was less likely to face an existential crisis than the average person today.

We evolved for a world that is far different from the one we live in. That’s no secret. But in order to reduce the friction between our biology and our new environment, we have to make adjustments to that environment. We have to recreate some of the past conditions.

Fortunately, we no longer have to risk our lives to feel a sense of purpose, but the fact that risking something is what often provides purpose is not something we can just overlook.

More than ever, people feel that what they do on a daily basis has little worth, that it isn’t meaningful and that their time could be better used if it was more clear where to invest it.

Well, what most people lack is a substitution for physical risk. When “Tank Man” blocked those tanks, yes, he put his life on the line, but he did it primarily for an underlying idea.

The only sustainable way to feel grounded in the fact that you’re doing what you should be is not only to stand for something, but more importantly, to put your skin into it — to be willing to be harmed for it. That means being reputationally, intellectually, or otherwise liable.

A miscalculated risk can be damaging, but never taking any risk at all is to never really live.

Evolution Begins At the Fringe

When we think about how good ideas arise in culture, we intuitively imagine a false kind of uniformity in their dissemination. We assume that once one exists, it will make its way through.

More often than not, however, what happens is that a good idea is brought up and then it spends years and, sometimes, decades in the fringes of society because, by definition, if the idea is good enough to improve our culture, it likely also conflicts with the status quo.

The world is hostile to anything that is different from the existing reality, and it’s very good at keeping such things where only a few passionate people are willing to work on them.

That’s why advancing new and important things is risky. It entails a process where a person has to go through the pain of pushback, ridicule, and existing agents with personal agendas.

In fact, there are many notable instances in human history where someone had thought of something valuable at an earlier time, but whatever the thing was wasn’t discovered or implemented until far later, when somebody else dared to follow through on it.

Not only is risk-taking something that can add purpose to our lives, but it’s also one of the most noble things you can do if you truly have something you think is worth standing up for.

The reason that the “Tank Man” photograph touches so many people is that it represents all those moments where someone defiantly said that enough is enough. And if it weren’t for the courage of people like that, the world would be an infinitely lesser version of what it is today.

Reality isn’t just created by itself. It’s always moved through the force of a person or a group.

All You Need to Know

1989 was an important year in world history. The Cold War came to an end, democracy spread like an infection, and “Tank Man” said more with his actions than he did with words.

Regardless of whether the cause of that man bravely protesting against his government is your own, it does symbolize something incredibly important about the human condition.

There is a reason that acts of courage touch us, just like there is a reason that humans — whether individually or as a society — can’t live without having exposure to some kind of risk.

Throughout most of our existence, struggling for survival gave us purpose. There was no room for an existential crisis because we had no choice but to do what was needed. Today, the world is different, but we are not. While we don’t need the danger, we do need liability.

By putting our reputations, our words, our time, and our assets on the line, we can recreate the conditions under which we were made to thrive. We can use risk as a form of purpose.

In the process, we can also create further meaning in the world. By standing up for what is new and important, we can influence the cultural direction to match our dominant values.

We all quietly assume that our evolution as a society is rooted in some natural phenomena, but the reality is that how far we move is directly proportional to how far we’re willing to push.

The world we know today wouldn’t exist without risk-taking. Neither will a prosperous future.


Zat Rana

1956 Chevrolet 3100 Half Ton Pickup Truck

1956 Chevrolet 3100 Half Ton Pickup

This is one truck that I know alot about,since I am restoring one of my own.This is not my truck,so I don’t know how original it really is,but from this picture I can tell you a little about this truck.1956 chevy pickup truck

Because the fender emblem says 3100 Chevrolet,and is mounted above the fender line means it is a 1956,half ton truck.The V8 on the fender would mean it had the optional 265ci V8.

if it has the real vin tag on the door sill it would start with V3A56******* (V8,3000 series,half ton,1956).

For a transmission it could have a 3 speed on the column (3 on the tree),4 speed 0n the floor,with a very low first gear (granny gear),or a 4 speed Hydramatic automatic transmission,but it does not have a Hydramatic  transmission,because if it did the fender script would say 3100 Hydramatic,instead of 3100 Chevrolet.

The body is a short bed 77 1/8″ with the standard small window,the Tires would be 15″,and the hub caps were used on 55-56 trucks only,if this was a numbers truck it could be worth allot to the right buyer.

Plastic Army Men

Plastic Army Men

Plastic Army Men

In 1938, the Bergen Toy and Novelty Co. began selling an inexpensive line of minuscule, monochrome plastic Plastic Army Men soldiers. The 2-in. American figures were produced in U.S. Army green and molded in a variety of action poses  a little boy’s war fantasy come true.

Sold in large plastic bags, demand for the little green men rose in the 1950s thanks to a boom in plastics manufacturing and a lead-poisoning scare that made the metal versions less appealing. Soon the company was manufacturing enemy forces too: German troops were molded in grey, Japanese forces in yellow.

Though the little warriors have undergone several changes over the years, their most famous identity is as World War II–era soldiers with “pod feet” attached to keep them standing during battle.

Rochester Quadrajet

Rochester Quadrajet
How It Began

The Quadrajet was released in 1965, and since then, saw a long and fruitful life installed on GM cars until EFI took over. The Quadrajet was actually the successor to the previously-built Rochester 4GC carburetor that was manufactured from 1952 to 1967. This new carburetor was blended with what Rochester knew about carburetors, mixed with ideas from other manufacturers, (spread-bore design and vacuum secondaries).

The Quadrajet became an instant success.
When part-throttle cruising, the small primaries (1 3/32-inch for 750 cfm, and 1 7/32-inch for 800 cfm carburetors) deliver a higher velocity into the intake than other carburetors. This results in better fuel atomization going into the intake. This, of course, is dependent upon whether the fuel metering, float level, idle-screw setting, throttle-blade angle, jets, power valve, air bleeds, and needle valves, etc., are all properly set.

While there are some GM street-car enthusiasts that swear by the Quadrajet, they are also disliked by almost as many. The stigma surrounding the Quadrajet has to do with the perceived lack of performance capabilities, and because rebuilding them is not quite as easy as, let’s say, a Holley. Many even call them Qaudrabog carburetors because of the “bog” that occurs when the secondaries open.

Since this actually occurs when the carburetor is not properly tuned, it is an ill-conceived, derogatory name. Either way, parts are easy to find, and a properly rebuilt Quadrajet will perform just as well as many aftermarket units when used in a proper application. In fact, even Chrysler used Quadrajet carburetors in the late ’80s, proving their popularity over the Carter Thermoquad with the engineers at Mopar.

Few people still fail to realize that the Quadrajet has a strong racing heritage within the Stock and Super Stock drag racing classes. In fact, there have been a multitude of record-holding Super Stock race cars that have run in the 9-second bracket with a Quadrajet on top of their manifolds.

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Rochester Quadrajet

MotorHeads Mechanical FB

Harley VIN Identification

Harley VIN Identification

How to Identify Harley VIN Numbers

When buying any used Harley-Davidson, checking the Harley VIN numbers against the title is mandatory. If they do not match exactly you should think about looking elsewhere.

Typographical errors on motorcycle registrations are sometimes very common, but don’t take any chances. In some cases a visit to your local department of motor vehicles may be enough to get a VIN typo corrected. However, when buying a Harley or other vehicle with an out of state title, the difficulty in correcting such errors increases dramatically. With strict state regulations increasing every year, you are better off avoiding any problem that may leave you holding a piece of property that cannot be documented. Not only is it illegal to drive, but you leave yourself open to unscrupulous people who could make a legal claim against you and your property.

If you have a Harley engine with matching title taken from a crashed or salvaged motorcycle, and put that engine into a new frame, the title is invalid. Anyone trying to sell you a post-1970 Harley where the title VIN only matches the engine, but does not match the number on the frame, PASS! Want to upgrade your bike to a new custom frame? You must apply for a new title. While it is nice to have an original Harley with matching engine and frame numbers, only the frame VIN is relevant when it comes to legal registration.

Never accept a Harley or other vehicles without a legal title. One such case involved an individual restoring a Harley originally purchased without proper papers. Some deadbeat and his lawyer came along and claimed the Harley was his. Without enough money to pay an attorney, and lacking any legal title or receipts, the poor guy was forced to give the bike to this shark in order to avoid a lawsuit. This may sound like extortion but it happens all the time. Don’t become another horror story. Take precautions when investigating the authenticity of the Harley VIN and registration.

There has always been much debate over bikes with matching numbers and their true value. In my opinion, any Harley being sold as “rare” or “limited” is usually anything but that. As with beauty, value and rarity are often in the eye of the beholder. If matching numbers makes a motorcycle more valuable to you, then only you can put a value on it. Just don’t expect the next person buying that Harley from you to think the same way.

Locating the Harley VIN

Prior to 1961 On Harley models prior to 1961, the engine number acts as the VIN. This number can be found on the left side engine case. Harley models produced prior to 1969 do not carry any frame number.
VIN Numbering Conventions:

First two numbers are the model year.
Letters (up to four) are the model designation.
The last numbers are the production run number.

1962 – 1969
VIN Numbering Conventions:

First two numbers are the model year.
Letters (2-4) are the model designation.
The last numbers are the production run number.

In addition, models with 4 digit production numbers have an even-numbered first digit for even years, odd for odd years. Models containing a 5 digit production number will have the first two digits even for even years, odd for odd years.

Why is this important? If the VIN does not follow this even or odd numbering sequence, you can almost guarantee that the VIN has been altered. It is extremely common to find mismatched engines in these early bikes with different VIN numbers than the title paperwork. 1970 – 1980:
Beginning in 1970, Harley started stamping VIN numbers on both the frame and engine case. The exception as noted by our friends at Cyborg Cycles, is the 1979 model . This exception is discussed below.

First two numbers are the model code.
Next 5 digits, position 3-7 is the production run number.
The last 2 digits designate the year.

The only legal VIN number for Harley’s produced after 1970 is on the frame. NO EXCEPTION! It doesn’t matter if the engine case number matches your registration papers, if the frame VIN doesn’t match the registration you have a problem! You might be able to fool a few cops or even someone at the DMV, but don’t count on it. In addition, it should go without saying that any alteration to the VIN is illegal. This goes for restamping frames or adding the original VIN to a replacement frame. If you replace the frame, you need to have a new VIN assigned to your Harley.

Always remember that on models built after 1970, the Harley VIN always follows the frame… not the engine!

The infamous 1979 Exception
During the 1979 model run, some Harley’s were produced with engine numbers that did not match the frame number. The production date is reported to be from 1/9/79 – 2/7/79, and the frame VIN’s affected are 43000H9 through 48199H9. These models had engines numbered with a separate “crankcase number” instead of the frame’s VIN. This engine number is reported to be a ten digit numeric ID. Rumor has it that Harley went back to the old numbering sequence once the legal ramifications were realized. Regardless of the engine case number, the title must always match the frame VIN. Thanks to Cyborg Cycles for this information.

1981 -2000:
Beginning in 1981, Harley started using a 17 digit VIN number on the frame and an abbreviated VIN on the engine case. As always, the legal title must match the VIN number on the frame. If the title and frame VIN reads 1HD1ELK12BZ123456 , the engine case number should read something like ELKB123456 . VIN number rules described under the 1970 – 1980 Harley models also apply here.

Oregon silverspot butterfly

Oregon silverspot butterfly

Oregon silverspot butterfly

Scientific name: Speyeria zerene hippolyta

Status: Threatened

Critical Habitat: Designated

Listing Activity: Oregon silverspot butterfly was listed as a threatened species with critical habitat in October 1980. A revised recovery plan was published in 2001.

Historical Status and Current Trends

The historical range of the Oregon silverspot butterfly subspecies extends from the Long Beach Peninsula, Pacific County, Washington, south to Del Norte County, California. All of these populations were restricted to the immediate coast, centered around salt-spray meadows, or within a few miles of the coastline in similar meadow-type habitat.

At the time of listing, the only viable population known was on the Siuslaw National Forest in Tillamook County, Oregon. Additional populations have since been discovered at Cascade Head, Bray Point, and Clatsop Plains in Oregon, on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, and in Del Norte County in California.

Description and Life History

The Oregon silverspot butterfly is a medium-sized, orange and brown butterfly with black veins and spots on the dorsal (upper) wing surface, and a yellowish submarginal band and bright metallic silver spots on the ventral (under-side) wing surface. This subspecies is distinguished from other subspecies of silverspot butterflies by a somewhat smaller size and darker coloration at the base of the wings.

These are morphological adaptions for survival in a persistently windy and foggy environment. The forewing length averages about 27 millimeters (1 inch) for males and 29 millimeters (1.1 inch) for females. Hydaspe fritillary ( Speyeria hydaspe), a related species found in adjacent habitats can be distinguished by the cream, rather than silver, colored spots of the ventral wing surface.

The life history of the Oregon silverspot revolves around its obligatory host plant, the early blue violet (Viola adunca). Females oviposit up to 200+ eggs singly amongst the salt-spray meadow vegetation near the violet host plant, usually in late August and early September. Sites with good sun exposure are favored. The eggs hatch in approximately 16 days and the newly hatched larvae wander short distances to find a suitable site for diapause (suspended growth for overwintering).

The larvae end diapause sometime in early spring and begin to feed on the violet leaves. As the larvae grow, they pass through five molts (shed outer covering) before they enter the intermediate stage between larval and adult forms (pupate). Approximately two or more weeks later, the butterflies emerge from their pupal case (eclose). Adult emergence starts in July and extends into September. Shortly thereafter, their wings and other body parts harden and they escape the windy, cool meadows for nearby forests or brush lands.

Mating occurs through August and September. Those individuals (male and female) which are most efficient at basking and maintaining proper body temperature will be able to operate longer and deeper in the windy meadow zone, thus improving their opportunities for successful reproduction.


The Oregon silverspot occupies three types of grassland habitat. One type consists of marine terrace and coastal headland salt-spray meadows (e.g., Cascade Head, Bray Point Rock Creek-Big Creek and portions of Del Norte sites). The second consists of stabilized dunes as found at the Long Beach Peninsula, Clatsop Plains, and the remainder of Del Norte. Both of these habitats are strongly influenced by proximity to the ocean, mild temperatures, high rainfall, and persistent fog. The third habitat type consists of montane grasslands found on Mount Hebo and Fairview Mountains. Conditions at these sites include colder temperatures, significant snow accumulations, less coastal fog, and no salt spray.

The most important feature of the habitat of the Oregon silverspot is the presence of the early blue violet. This plant is normally the only species on which the Oregon silverspot can successfully feed and develop as larva. However, in the laboratory the butterflies will accept other species of violets, and there is evidence that some individuals on Mount Hebo are using another species of violet.

This plant is part of the salt-spray meadow vegetation and is an obligatory component of the butterfly’s habitat. Other features of optimum habitat include moderate grass cover, including red fescue (Festuca rubra) used as a shelter for larvae, and a mixture of herbaceous plants such as California aster (Aster chilensis) used for nectaring by adults. Apparently the more inland meadow sites occupied by related subspecies of silverspots are not accessible to Oregon silverspots. The habitat is similar on Mount Hebo with Viola adunca as the key component. The distribution and composition of the flora may differ slightly, but the habitat functions similarly to the salt-spray meadow. The shallow soil apparently helps to keep this area in the meadow stage.

Although the salt-spray meadow is the nursery area for the butterfly and a key element of this species’ habitat, it is a rather harsh environment for the adults. Upon eclosion (metamorphosis of the pupa into the adult butterfly), the adults generally move out of the meadows into the fringe of conifers or brush where there is shelter for more efficient heat conservation and nectaring flights. The forest shelter may also be used for courtship and mating. Where such sheltered conditions exist, the adults will use various nectar sources, including native and exotic plants, particularly composites such as the native California aster, yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Indian thistle (Cirsium edule) and some exotics such as false dandelion (Hypochaeris radieata) and tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea).

Reasons for Decline

The major limiting factors affecting this species are related primarily to the limitation of suitable habitat. The highly specialized salt-spray meadow habitat within the geographical range for the Oregon silverspot was never common. This early seral community has always had a patchy distribution, occurring only where fire, salt-laden winds, or other natural or man-related occurrences (e.g., grazing, controlled burning) have maintained an open meadow. Evidence suggests that such habitat was more extensive in the past than it is today.

Historical accounts show the butterfly and its habitat as locally common within its range. However, good habitat has steadily been used for residential and business establishments, public parkland development, and parking areas or lawns. Excessive use of the salt-spray meadows by grazing animals or off-road vehicles has directly eliminated habitat. Secondary impacts of people’s activities, introduction of exotic plants, and fire suppression with subsequent succession of meadows to brush and stunted woodland have also contributed to a reduction in suitable habitat.

Habitat destruction is unquestionably the reason for the threatened status of this butterfly today. It should be noted, however, that as colony size is reduced by habitat loss, restricted genetic variability and/or catastrophic events can ultimately cause the extinction of these small populations.

Conservation Measures

The coastal prairie habitat on which the Oregon silverspot butterfly is dependent will quickly become scrub, brush, or forest land if left unmanaged.  Natural processes such as wildfires and wildlife grazing likely functioned to maintain open grasslands in the past.  Today the habitat must be actively managed to maintain a grassland structure.  Mowing, burning, and the planting of native plants are current habitat management strategies.

An Oregon silverspot butterfly captive-rearing program began in 1999 to raise caterpillars for release into declining population.  The Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington receive a small number of wild female Oregon silverspot butterflies each year.  Each of these females may lay hundreds of eggs which quickly hatch into tiny first instar caterpillars.

The zoos care for the caterpillars throughout their development, overwintering them in their diapause state in cool refregerators, and feeding them violets during the spring and summer until they become pupae.  The pupae are then released into the declining populations.  These population augmentations or reintroductions are a last resort to prevent further population extinctions.  Multiple years of releases are needed to successfully stabilize the declining populations but the augmentation appears to be a promising species recovery tool.

Market Sell-Offs: 3 Facts Every Investor Needs to Know

Market Sell-Offs: 3 Facts Every Investor Needs to Know

Welcome to reality.

Stocks’ continual ascent since March 2009 seduced many investors into believing a fantasy: Stocks are low-risk, low-volatility investments. Plunging sell-offs are the province of a distant future.

It was never true, as events of the past week have proven. Plunging market sell-offs will occur, usually when least expected. That’s reality.

The good news is that a proper perspective proves that reality isn’t to be feared.

The Dow’s Plunge Is a Piker

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 1,175 points on Monday. This was the largest single-day drop in Dow history. Many media outlets exploited the fact. The word “historical” peppered the headlines.

Technically, the Dow’s drop was historical. The Dow had never dropped by that large a number. We have more to the story of market sell-offs, though.

The 1,175 points was a numerator that’s meaningless without an accompanying denominator. The denominator was the Dow’s closing price the day before. The denominator was 25,500. The percentage decline attributable to the 1,175 points was 4.6%.

When we focus on the percentage, we find that 4.6% is far from historical. It barely registers as a shrug. A 4.6% decline fails to break into the top-20 percentage declines in Dow history.

Here’s another dose of reality: The Dow declined 12.8% on Oct. 28, 1929. It declined 22.6% on Oct. 19, 1987. The largest recent percentage decline occurred on Dec. 1, 2008, when the Dow declined 7.9%.

Yes, the Dow’s decline was the largest in absolute numbers. It was hardly a plunge; I offer no more than a shrug.

The Bias Is Up

For argument’s sake, let’s say that the market sell-offs snowball into a bear market (which I’m unconvinced it will). What should we expect?

Morningstar data tell us that the average bear market lasts 18 months. It produces an average 40% drop in the S&P 500.

Bear markets can be punishing, to be sure. Forty percent isn’t a trifle.

The S&P 500 dropped 43% during the bearing beginning late 2000 following the bull-market highs set in March 2000. Those highs weren’t seen for another seven years, until 2007.

Another bear market hit in December 2007. The S&P 500 lost 56% of its value by March 2009. The highs seen in late 2007 weren’t seen until March 2013.

But not all bear markets are punishing. A few have been fleeting.

The S&P 500 lost 33.4% in the bear market of late 1987. The bear’s appearance was brief. The S&P was setting new highs less than two years later.

A market correction — a drop of 16.9% — hit the S&P 500 in the summer of 1990. Again, we find a quick turnaround: The S&P 500 was setting new highs six months later. The S&P 500 would quadruple in value over the subsequent decade.

Over the past 100 years, bear markets have averaged 18 months, but bull markets have averaged 97 months. The bias for the stock market is up. A glance at a long-term chart of the S&P 500 will confirm the bias.

Market Sell-Offs: Long-Term Advantage

The initial impulse is to fold ‘em and leave. When stocks start rolling over,  investors start placing sell orders.

If you’re an investor — as opposed to a trader — and measure your investing horizon in years, resist the impulse to sell. You will survive the bear market, whether it’s fleeting or punishing.

Wharton School finance professor analyzed stock-market data collected back to 1871. The data show that 9.6% was the median 30-year average annual return over the past 146 years. Similar returns are seen for 20 years. Even the 15-year period is encouraging. No loss has been recorded.

So, if you’re a long-term investor — and an income investor, in particular — it’s best to kick back and wait for the turnaround.

I offer another reason to kick back and wait: You reduce the risk of missing the “big pop” days.

Data compiled and analyzed by Index Fund Advisors show that big gains — the wealth-changing gains — are frequently concentrated in just a few days. If you miss even a couple of the “big pops,” your returns take a pounding.


How To Prune Your Fruit Trees

How To Prune Your Fruit Trees

Now is the best time to prune your fruit trees and here is how to do it in three simple steps.

Within a few years of lovingly planting fruit trees, most folks find themselves with scraggly overgrown bushes, rather than the Garden of Eden they had envisioned. The key to keeping fruit trees attractive and productive is annual pruning.

Worry not, pruning is not the brain surgery it has been made out to be. Curmudgeonly Master Gardener types may tell you that different fruits are pruned in different ways, which is true to an extent, but there is a simple three-step process that works for the vast majority of fruit trees.

Outside of the tropics, most of us are dealing with pome fruits (apples, pears and quince) or stone fruits (peaches, cherries, apricots, plums — anything with a pit). This three-step method works for both.

Though summer pruning is not harmful to the trees, winter makes things easier. Without the tree’s foliage, you can really see what you are doing.


Start by pruning away any wood that is dead, damaged or diseased—a.k.a. the three D’s.

Are sprouts coming from the base of the trunk? If so, remove them — technically they’re called ‘suckers’ and they originate from the rootstock rather than the fruiting variety grafted on top.

How about suspiciously straight sprouts growing from some of the main branches? These erect, perfectly vertical branches, or “watersprouts,” — should be removed as well.

With all these clean-up cuts, it’s important to prune the branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from — don’t leave little stubs.



The goal of thinning is to allow light and air into the canopy, which boosts fruit production and reduces problems with pests and disease.

First, remove any branches that grow downward, toward the center of the tree or that cross paths with another branch.

Once these are out of the way, stand back and take a look. The goal is to have evenly spaced branches splaying out in a pleasing, fractal-like pattern from the center.

Do you see places where multiple branches compete with each other? You might find two or more growing from a single crotch at a narrow angle, for example, or from different points but in a parallel fashion, one hovering over the other.

If so, thin out all but one branch, retaining the branch with the healthiest appearance and best crotch angle (roughly the 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock angle from the center of the tree). Wider angles can break when laden with fruit and narrower angles lead to bushy growth and fruit that is too high to pick.

Next, continue to thin the tree until there is a good 6 to 12 inches of air space around every branch. The smaller the branches are, the closer they can be to each other.

As with your clean-up cuts, all thinning cuts should be made flush to the branch.



The last step is the easiest — you’re basically giving the tree a haircut.

The idea is to prune back the outermost growth of the tree so the branches become shorter and thicker as they grow, rather than long and gangly. This keeps them from snapping under the weight of the fruit, but pomologists (fruit scientists) will tell you that it also causes the tree’s hormones to activate growth lower in the canopy, making for smaller, more fruitful trees.

Heading back the tree means cutting off 20 to 30 percent of last year’s growth. You can distinguish last year’s growth from two-year-old growth by the wrinkly ring of bark encircling each stem. Depending on the vigor of the tree, this may be anywhere from two inches to 4 feet back from the tip of each branch.

Unlike the previous steps, these cuts will be made part way into each branch. Exactly where you make the cut is important, too. Prune each branch back to a point one-quarter inch above a bud that faces the direction you want that branch to grow in the coming year. If there is another branch close by on the left, for example, prune back to a bud on the right side of the branch.



  • Sharp shears make for clean, easy cuts — if you don’t know how to sharpen your own, many neighborhood hardware stores often offer the service for a small fee
  • As a measure of disease prevention, dip the blades of your pruning shears in solution of isopropyl alcohol for 30 seconds to disinfect them before moving on to prune another tree
  • Clean up the pruned wood from around the tree and dispose — especially if it contains any diseased material

Author,Brian Barth formerly lived in America’s fruit basket, aka California, where he ran an edible landscape design company, but moonlighted each winter as a fruit tree pruner.

What’s the Point of Being Alive?

What’s the Point of Being Alive?

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”

That’s how Albert Camus begins his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, in which he takes it on himself to question the meaning of existence and the incentives we have for staying alive.

Like many before him, he was skeptical of a purely objective view of reality. He didn’t buy into the idea of a preordained purpose. Nor did he think that the answer was obvious.

After all, there is a lot that doesn’t make sense about life, and this lack of orientation isn’t always pleasant. In fact, quite often, it involves pain, confusion, and sustained difficulty.

Camus goes on to talk about all of this at length, and he eventually answers the question.

At the end of the essay, he frames his conclusion into the story of Sisyphus. A character in Greek mythology who disobeyed the Gods and was punished to pointlessly roll a boulder up a hill for eternity, only to watch it fall right back down, forcing him to repeat the task.

“It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me… I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end… At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock…

One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The Problem of Absurdity

The essay ends as shockingly as it began. How is it possible for Sisyphus to be happy?

Before we answer that, we have to first introduce the problem that Camus was trying to solve. It’s one that takes shape in different forms in every life that has ever been lived.

The absurd condition is a product of us trying to reason with an unreasonable world. It occurs when our rational and sensible ideas about what we want out of life collide with the cold indifference of an unsympathetic world that doesn’t concern itself with any one person.

Many of us would like to work jobs that ignite our imagination every day, but instead, we’re stuck doing repetitive chores so we can pay the bills and keep doing more of the same.

A lot of us would like a reasonable shot at contentment and fulfillment, but due to things mostly outside of our control, we are instead forced to deal with disorientation and confusion.

Our expectations aren’t unreasonable, and much of the time, nor do they fall outside of the realm of possibility. Yet, due to factors larger than any one of us, we have to settle.

There are two obvious solutions. The first is to abandon our reasonable expectations, and the second is to pretend that the world isn’t unreasonable at all and that everything is fine.

These solutions to the predicament, however, don’t please Camus. Abandoning reason is what he calls “philosophical suicide,” and it’s at odds with the actual reality. Similarly, denying the unreasonability of the world is a form of acceptance that limits our experience.

Neither is the cause of Sisyphus’ happiness. His approach is based on a different viewpoint.

Revolt, Freedom, and Passion

This again brings us to Camus’ initial question. Why endure when there is a way out?

Well, if we have decided that we can’t abandon reason, then suicide doesn’t make sense because it would mean accepting the fruitlessness of the situation without pushing back.

To Camus, the real solution is a combination of revolt, freedom, and passion, and that is the cause of Sisyphus’ happiness in spite of the absurdity of his situation. It’s why he endures.

Firstly, he has no illusion as to the pointlessness and difficulty of his circumstances. Yet, he goes back down the hill to keep pushing the boulder up again. This is a form of revolt against his situation, and it gives him power over the absurdity that he can’t beat any other way.

Secondly, he doesn’t pretend to gain any sort of eternal freedom from the unreasonableness of the world over the long term, but his choices and his reactions can give him freedom here and right now. Ultimately, that’s the only freedom that matters. It’s what makes life worth living.

Finally, he is clear on the fact that the purpose of life isn’t to live as good and comfortable as possible, but it’s to live as much as possible. It’s to have a zest and a passion for your experience no matter what it brings you, and this isn’t at all dependent on the world but on each of us.

With each push, Sisyphus revolts and gains power over his situation. With each decision, he earns the freedom of that moment. With each breath, he retains the livelihood with passion.

No matter how difficult the challenge, and no matter how steep the hill, we’re all gifted the strength of these three weapons, and we can call on them in almost any circumstance.

Because, as Sisyphus shows, most situations have solutions that make life worth enduring.

All You Need to Know

Albert Camus became the second youngest winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957.

While he passed away a few years later, the work he left behind continues to be talked about today. His stories were simple but profound. The characters were complex but human.

Although he was very careful about not labeling himself a philosopher, his impact on 20th century thinking can’t be understated. The Myth of Sisyphus is a revolutionary piece of work.

He never shied away from asking the big questions, and nor was he hesitant to provide the answers. By all evidence, it appears that he lived his own life in line with what he preached.

The absurdity of life is present in each one of our stories. It can arise as easily in our personal lives as it can in the broader ecosystem that we are a part of. Escaping it is not the solution. The world will continue as it does, and evading reason itself is unreasonable.

Rather, the way to deal with it is with radical acceptance. It’s by engaging in a permanent revolt. It’s by treasuring the freedom of the present moment. It’s by injecting life with passion.

A life without the absurd would also be a life without any subjective meaning. Happiness and fulfillment are deeply intervened in the different moments of difficulty, pain, and challenge.

Sisyphus is happy not in spite of his struggle, but because of the opportunity that it presents.

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